On a humid morning in 2019, Lily Xu watched as a patrolling ranger driving a motorbike down a remote forest road in Cambodia signaled his group to stop and pull over. He stooped, fishing for something the Harvard University Ph.D. student couldn’t see, and pulled from the brush a length of long, thin wire: a snare, set to trap a leopard, a valuable local species that had been hunted nearly to extinction. The ranger’s keen eyes were essential to spotting the snare. But how did he know where to look in the first place? His source wasn’t a local informer, or a poacher-turncoat: it was the work of artificial intelligence (AI). The AI is called PAWS, short for Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security. Using data logged on previous ranging patrols, compiled on the open-source Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), PAWS is able to predict where poachers might go next. Rangers at Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia pose with a pile of illegal wildlife traps found on their patrols. Image courtesy of Milind Tambe. After several years of field-testing in Uganda and Cambodia, the PAWS system will soon make its world debut. PAWS has been incorporated into the latest update to SMART, which is already used widely by rangers and other park employees to gather data and track observations of illegal activity in parks around the world. PAWS arose out of a chance experience in the early 2010s, when Harvard University professor Milind Tambe was invited to sit on a…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer